Give an electric car its freedom and it’ll pay you back double in broken speed records and acts of excess. At least, that seems to be Porsche’s recipe for success with the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, its former Le Mans car that, race-mandated limiters removed, has been demonstrating just what joys electrification can bring.
The Evo is effectively an unshackled Porsche 919 Hybrid, the car with which the automaker won the Le Mans 24 Hours race along with the FIA World Endurance Championship three years in a row. Impressive enough, but thanks to race restrictions the car wasn’t able to show exactly what it could do. That gave Porsche an idea.
Back in April, it revealed the 919 Hybrid Evo. The powertrain hardware was kept the same, combining a 2.0-liter V4 turbocharged gas engine which drives the rear axle, with an electric motor for the front axle. Exhaust gases are still used to recuperate energy, together with regenerative braking, which is stored in a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack.
However the WEC-mandated fuel flow meter – which limits the amount of gasoline a race car can slurp – was removed. That alone was enough to take the car from around 500 horsepower in the 919 Hybrid, to 720 horsepower in the 919 Hybrid Evo. Ditching the recuperation system limits, meanwhile, squeezed 10-percent more power from the electrical system. Overall, it makes for a 1,160 hp car.
Gone, too, were the aerodynamic limitations. Porsche fitted the 919 Hybrid Evo with a much larger rear wing and a matching front diffuser, each with actively-controlled drag reduction. More tweaks to the underbody, plus fixed height side skirts, add up to what the automaker says is 53-percent more downforce and a whopping 66-percent increase in overall efficiency.
Throw in stickier rubber on the wheels – each of which gain brake-by-wire – stronger suspension, and an 86 pound weight cut, and the 919 Hybrid Evo clears plenty of space between itself and the race-spec car. Porsche first demonstrated quite what a difference that made by pitting the car against the Belgian Grand Prix Circuit track record set by the Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid, beating it by 0.783 seconds.
Now, it’s gone to the notorious Nürburgring Nordschleife, a 12.94 mile track that has proved the nemesis of some of the most exclusive, expensive, and exotic metal in the world. There, with Timo Bernhard at the wheel, the 919 Hybrid Evo lapped the course in 5 minutes and 19.55 seconds. In doing so, he beat the old record by 51.58 seconds.
Top speed was 229.5 mph, but even more surprising is the average speed: that worked out to a crazy 145.3 mph, something car and driver owe in no small part to the downforce work. “Thanks to the aerodynamic downforce, at sections I never imagined you can stay on full throttle,” Bernhard explained. “I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife. But today I got to learn it in a new way.”
Of course, Porsche doesn’t have plans to make a production version of the 919 Hybrid Evo any time soon. All the same, electrification features highly on the automaker’s roadmap. First will be the 2020 Porsche Taycan, the renamed Mission E all-electric sedan, which promises 600 horsepower and a 2019 launch.
The roadmap, though, isn’t just going to be family-friendly cars. Porsche announced just earlier this month that it had made an investment in Rimac, a specialist in extreme high-performance EV supercars.